Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 The Ivy Lane Club


This was one of the creations of Dr. Johnson's clubbable nature, which served as recreation for this laborious worker. He was now "tugging at the oar," in Gough-square, Fleet-street. Boswell describes him as "engaged in a steady, continued course of occupation." "But his enlarged and lively mind could not be satisfied without more diversity of employment, and the pleasure of animated relaxation. He therefore not only exerted his talents in occasional composition, very different from lexicography, but formed a Club in Ivy-lane, Paternoster-row, with a view to enjoy literary discussion, and amuse his evening hours. The members associated with him in this little Society were his beloved friend Dr. Richard Bathurst; Mr. Hawkesworth, afterwards well known by his writings; Mr. John Hawkins, an attorney; and a few others of different professions." The Club met every Tuesday evening at the King's Head, a beef-steak house in Ivy-lane. One of the members, Hawkins, then Sir John, has given a very lively picture of a celebration by this Club, at the Devil Tavern, in Fleet-street, which forms one of the pleasantest pages in the Author's Life of Johnson. Sir John tells us:

"One evening, at the [Ivy-lane] Club, Dr. Johnson proposed to us celebrating the birth of Mrs. Lennox's first literary child, as he called her book, by a whole night spent in festivity. The place appointed was the Devil Tavern; and there, about the hour of eight, Mrs. Lennox, and her husband, and a lady of her acquaintance now living [1785], as also the Club and friends, to the number of near twenty, assembled. Our supper was elegant, and Johnson had directed that a magnificent hot apple-pye should make a part of it, and this he would have stuck with bay-leaves, because, forsooth, Mrs. Lennox was an authoress, and had written verses; and further, he had prepared for her a crown of laurel, with which, but not until he had invoked the Muses by some ceremonies of his own invention, he encircled her brows. The night passed, as must be imagined, in pleasant conversation and harmless mirth, intermingled, at different periods, with the refreshments of coffee and tea. About five, Johnson's face shone with meridian splendour, though his drink had been only lemonade; but the far greater part of us had deserted the colours of Bacchus, and were with difficulty rallied to partake of a second refreshment of coffee, which was scarcely ended when the day began to dawn. This phenomenon began to put us in mind of our reckoning; but the waiters were all so overcome with sleep, that it was two hours before we could get a bill, and it was not till near eight that the creaking of the street-door gave the signal for our departure."

When Johnson, the year before his death, endeavoured to re-assemble as many of the Club as were left, he found, to his regret, he wrote to Hawkins, that Horseman, the landlord, was dead, and the house shut up.

About this time, Johnson instituted a Club at the Queen's Arms, in St. Paul's Churchyard. "He told Mr. Hook," says Boswell, "that he wished to have a City Club, and asked him to collect one; but," said he, "don't let them be patriots." (Boswell's Life, 8th edit. vol. iv. p. 93.) This was an allusion to the friends of his acquaintance Wilkes. Boswell accompanied him one day to the Club, and found the members "very sensible, well-behaved men."

John Timbs
Club Life of London Vol. I
London, 1866